Storms of My Grandchildren by Dr. James Hansen

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 11:34 PM GMT on July 26, 2010

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"Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity" is NASA climate change scientist Dr. James Hansen's first book. Dr. Hansen is arguably the most visible and well-respected climate change scientist in the world, and has headed the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City since 1981. He is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University. Dr. Hansen greatly raised awareness of the threat of global warming during his Congressional testimony during the record hot summer of 1988, and issued one of the first-ever climate model predictions of global warming (see an analysis here to see how his 1988 prediction did.) In 2009, Dr. Hansen was awarded the Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the American Meteorological Society, for his "outstanding contributions to climate modeling, understanding climate change forcings and sensitivity, and for clear communication of climate science in the public arena."

Storms of My Grandchildren focuses on the key concepts of the science of climate change, told through Hansen's personal experiences as a key player in field's scientific advancements and political dramas over the past 40 years. Dr. Hansen's writing style is very straight-forward and understandable, and he clearly explains the scientific concepts involved in a friendly way that anyone with a high school level science education can understand. I did not find any scientific errors in his book. However, some of his explanations are too long-winded, and the book is probably too long, at 274 pages. Nevertheless, Storms of My Grandchildren is a must-read, due to the importance of the subject matter and who is writing it. Hansen is not a fancy writer. He comes across as a plain Iowan who happened to stumble into the field of climate change and discovered things he had to speak out about. And he does plenty of speaking out in his book.

James Hansen vs. Richard Lindzen
Dr. Hansen's book opens with an interesting chapter on his participation in four meetings of Vice President Dick Cheney's cabinet-level Climate Task Force in 2001. It seems that the Bush Administration was prepared to let Dr. Hansen's views on climate change influence policy. However, Dr. Richard Lindzen, whom Hansen describes as "the dean of of global warming contrarians", was also present at the meetings. Dr.Lindzen was able to confuse the task force members enough so that they never took Dr. Hansen's views seriously. Hansen observes that "U.S. policies regarding carbon dioxide during the Bush-Cheney administration seem to have been based on, or at a minimum, congruent with, Lindzen's perspective." Hansen asserts that Lindzen was able to do this by acting more like a lawyer than a scientist: "He and other contrarians tend to act like lawyers defending a client, presenting only arguments that favor their client. This is in direct contradiction to...the scientific method." Hansen also comments that he asked Lindzen what he thought of the link between smoking and cancer, since Lindzen had been a witness for the tobacco industry decades earlier. Lindzen "began rattling off all the problems with the data relating smoking to health problems, which was closely analogous to his views of climate data."

Alarmism
Global warming contrarians often dismiss scientists such a Dr. Hansen as "alarmists" who concoct fearsome stories about climate change in order to get research funding. Dr. Lindzen made this accusation at Cheney's Climate Task Force in 2001. However, Dr. Hansen notes that "in 1981 I lost funding for research on the climate effects of carbon dioxide because the Energy Department was displeased with a paper, 'Climate Impact of Increasing Carbon Dioxide,' I had published in Science magazine. The paper made a number of predictions for the 21st century, including 'opening of the fabled Northwest Passage', which the Energy Department considered to be alarmist but which have since proven to be accurate." If you read Dr. Hansen's book and listen to his lectures, it is clear that he is not an alarmist out to get more research funding by hyping the dangers of global warming. Hansen says in his book that "my basic nature nature is very placid, even comfortably stolid", and that nature comes through very clearly in Storms of My Grandchildren. Hansen's writings express a quiet determination to plainly set forth the scientific truth on climate change. He has surprisingly few angry words towards the politicians, lobbyists, and scientists intent on distorting the scientific truth.

The science of climate change
The bulk of Storms of My Grandchildren is devoted to explanations of the science of climate change. Hansen's greatest concern is disintegration of the gerat ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica causing sea level rise: "Once the ice sheets begin to rapidly disintegrate, sea level would be continuously changing for centuries. Coastal cities would become impractical to maintain." Hansen is concerned that evidence from past climate periods show that the massive ice sheets that cover Greenland and Antarctica can melt quickly, with large changes within a century. For example, sea level at the end of the most recent Ice Age, 13,000 - 14,000 years ago, rose at a rate of 3 - 5 meters (10 - 17 feet) per century for several centuries. Hansen is convinced that just a 1.7 -2°C warming, which would likely result if we stabilize CO2 at 450 ppm, would be a "disaster scenario" that would trigger rapid disintegration of the ice sheets and disastrous rises in sea level. Hansen advocates stabilizing CO2 at 350 ppm (we are currently at 390 ppm, with a rate of increase of 2 ppm per year.)

Another of Hansen's main concerns is the extinction of species. He notes that studies of more than 1,000 species of plants, animals, and insects have found an average migration rate towards the poles due to climate warming in the last half of the 20th century to be four miles per decade. "That is not fast enough. During the past thirty years the lines marking the regions in which a given average temperature prevails (isotherms) have been moving poleward at a rate of about thirty-five miles per decade. If greenhouse gases continue to increase at business-as-usual rates, then the rate of isotherm movement will double in this century to at least seventy miles per decade."

Hansen's other main concern is the release of large amounts of methane gas stored in sea-floor sediments in the form of methane hydrates. If ocean temperatures warm according to predictions, the higher temperatures at the sea floor may be enough to destabilize the methane hydrate sediments and release huge quantities of methane into the atmosphere. Methane is a greenhouse gas 20 - 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Solutions to the climate change problem
Dr. Hansen is a controversial figure, since he has stepped outside his field of expertise and become an activist in promoting solutions to the climate change problem. He devotes a chapter called "An Honest, Effective Path" in the book to this. His main theme is that we need to tax fossil fuels using a "fee-and-dividend" approach. All of the tax money collected would be distributed uniformly to the public. This carbon tax would gradually rise, giving people time to adjust their lifestyle, choice of vehicle, home insulation, etc. Those who do better at reducing their fossil fuel use will receive more in the dividend than they will pay in the added costs of the products they buy. The approach is straightforward and does not require a large bureaucracy, but currently has little political support. Hansen is vehemently opposed to the approach that has the most political support, "Cap-and-trade": "Cap-and-trade is what governments and the people in alligator shoes (the lobbyists for special interests) are trying to foist on you. Whoops. As an objective scientist I should delete such personal opinions, to at least flag them. But I am sixty-eight years old, and I am fed up with the way things work in Washington." Hansen also promotes an overlooked type of nuclear power, "fast" reactors with liquid metal coolant that produce far less nuclear waste and are much more efficient than conventional nuclear reactors.

Quotes from the book
"Humanity treads today on a slippery slope. As we continue to pump greenhouse gases into the air, we move onto a steeper, even more slippery incline. We seem oblivious to the danger--unaware how close we may be to a situation in which a catastrophic slip becomes practically unavoidable, a slip where we suddenly lose all control and are pulled into a torrential stream that hurls us over a precipice to our demise."

"In order for a democracy to function well, the public needs to be honestly informed. But the undue influence of special interests and government greenwash pose formidable barriers to a well-informed public. Without a well-informed public, humanity itself and all species on the planet are threatened."

"Of course by 2005 I was well aware that the NASA Office of Public Affairs had become an office of propaganda. In 2004, I learned that NASA press releases related to global warming were sent to the White House, where they were edited to appear less serious or discarded entirely."

"If we let special interests rule, my grandchildren and yours will pay the price."

"The role of money in our capitals is the biggest problem for democracy and for the planet."

"The problem with asking people to pledge to reduce their fossil fuel use is that even if lots of people do, one effect is reduced demand for fossil fuel and thus a lower price--making it easier for someone else to burn...it is necessary for people to reduce their emissions, but it is not sufficient if the government does not adopt policies that cause much of the fossil fuels to be left in the ground permanently."

"I have argued that it is time to 'draw a line in the sand' and demand no new coal plants."

"The present situation is analogous to that faced by Lincoln with slavery and Churchill with Nazism--the time for compromises and appeasement is over."

"Humans are beginning to hammer the climate system with a forcing more than an order of magnitude more powerful than the forcings that nature employed."

"Once ice sheet disintegration begins in earnest, our grandchildren will live the rest of their lives in a chaotic transition period."

"After the ice is gone, would Earth proceed to the Venus syndrome, a runaway greenhouse effect that would destroy all life on the planet, perhaps permanently? While that is difficult to say based on present information, I've come to conclude that if we burn all reserves of oil, gas, and coal, there is a substantial chance we will initiate the runaway greenhouse. If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale, I believe the Venus syndrome is a dead certainty."

"One suggestion I have for now: Support Bill McKibben and his organization 350.org. It is the most effective and responsible leadership in the public struggle for climate justice."

Commentary
James Hansen understands the Earth's climate as well as any person alive, and his concern about where our climate is headed makes Storms of My Grandchildren a must-read for everyone who cares about the world their grandchildren will inherit. Storms of My Grandchildren retails for $16.50 at Amazon.com. Dr. Hansen's web site is http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/.

Jeff Masters

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784. IKE
Quoting msgambler:
Good Morning Ike


Morning....

Quiet across the Atlantic Basin

Jul 27, 2010 7:18 AM


The Atlantic Basin is void of any organized tropical systems. Disturbed weather from the northwest Caribbean into the western Gulf of Mexico is being caused by a weakening upper level low pressure area located in the central Gulf of Mexico interacting with an upper level high pressure area near the Yucatan. This upper air pattern is not favorable for tropical development but it will continue to support widespread showers and thunderstorms from the Yucatan into eastern Texas and eastern Mexico. Another weakening upper level low over the eastern Caribbean is above a large area of drier than normal air covering the central and eastern Caribbean. So, we see an unusual lack of clouds over the eastern Caribbean and over much of the Lesser Antilles. Two poorly organized tropical waves over the central Atlantic are encountering drier than normal air and show no organized thunderstorms. Computer forecasts show no low level features emerging across the Atlantic Basin through at least Friday. Note it's not unusual for late July to be quiet. However, often a period of quiet during late July and early August is followed by a much more active tropical pattern during La Nina years.

By AccuWeather Expert Senior Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski, updated by Brian Wimer
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morning
dry sinking air through out the MDR limiting tropical activity the SAL pedominates

theme for this week
SAL = storm activity limited
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good morning, one of the issues not addressed in any thing I have read recently concerning the coming season, is the time factor. We are running out of time for this season to grow to the mega production that so many have predicted. Consider the African wave situation. How many African waves will come into the MDR between now and Nov. 30th? Of those waves, how many will produce ? Get these two numbers right and you could predict the major component of the season.
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781. MahFL
StormW....is that the first CV system ?
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Good Morning Ike
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778. MahFL
Florida just had one of it's coldest winters for a while, but all the other winters were warmer than normal, some I recall no 32 F temps in Orange Park at all, whereas even 10 years ago we had them often. ergo...global warming.
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776. IKE
Operational(for 1 more day), 6Z GFS through Aug. 12th....Link


Parallel(for 1 more day), 6Z GFS through Aug. 12th.....Link


00Z ECMWF through Aug.6th....Link


Eastern ATL view.....Link


00Z CMC through Aug. 2nd....Link


6Z NOGAPS through Aug. 2nd....Link
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Quoting DestinJeff:
So much for thinking the GW talk would be over.

the doc puts that up there so we can have a respite from arguing over tropical systems. Instead, we argue over GW
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Quoting kmanhurricaneman:
question....! what purpose do you think the oil layer in the earth does?

its dead fossils. I dont think it does serve a purpose. Just a laymens view.
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or should i say this planet.
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question....! what purpose do you think the oil layer in the earth does?
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Quoting 10Speed:


On the flipside ... Florida just had one of it's coldest winters on record and all those warmth loving plants and trees that lived for years on the warm/cold survival border are now deceased.

While I agree that we have a global climatic phenomena in progress it is my opinion that we've named it incorrectly, it's giving false perception and is misleading many.

Try to explain to someone in Argentina right now that we're experiencing global warming.


Peru had a religious ceremony that the people track up a huge mountain to where they climb up the Ice capped mountains. It takes them a few days, and they make it into a festival. It is pretty neat to see. Now, these people see their iced capped mountains disappearing, and they are very alarmed and have been for a very long time.
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Good morning Storm
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JB this morn.

TUESDAY 5:30 AM
ACTUAL SATELLITE DATA LINK SO THERE IS NO MISTAKE ON TEMPS!

Given the issuances that this is the warmest year ever, we can easily see by comparing the actual temps of 1998 to this year that this is not true.

Here is the link for all the OBJECTIVE satellite temps since we started this method, which of course is more objective than adjusted temps from pre satellite eras. You can look for yourself

http://vortex.nsstc.uah.edu/data/msu/t2lt/uahncdc.lt

Go back to the the year 1998 and stack the temps up against 2010.

Remember, in the history of the planet, the NON BIASED measurement of temps can be compared to you starting to weigh yourself every day.. a week ago. That you get up every morning and one morning find yourself 1/10th of a pound heavier is not a big deal. Whats more, the reports on the warmest ever are like weighing yourself on your bathroom scale and seeing one thing, then going over and weighing yourself in the gym and seeing the other. The satellite era temps are the doctors office (even more accurate.. wrestlers scale) way of measuring and can not be confused with the bathroom scale, which not only is not as accurate but can be adjusted up and down, depending on what the user is up too!

ciao for now
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Quoting DestinJeff:
Its just that Global Warming blogs always lead to such heated discussion.


Hey its wunderground when theres nothing serious in the atlantic to talk about we gota talk about somthing and we cant not talk because we all put away time during hurricane season to blog on here so GW it is lol- really im sure people dont care what we talk about (i dont) as long as we can keep in a conversation and we dont become bored
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Quoting MahFL:


Global warming is occuring, in the UK plants and animals are living further and further north, sometimes 2 or 3 hundreds of miles. They cannot move north without a temperature increase, and I am not talking one hot summer, it has to be a slow general warmup over decades.


On the flipside ... Florida just had one of it's coldest winters on record and all those warmth loving plants and trees that lived for years on the warm/cold survival border are now deceased.

While I agree that we have a global climatic phenomena in progress it is my opinion that we've named it incorrectly, it's giving false perception and is misleading many.

Try to explain to someone in Argentina right now that we're experiencing global warming.
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Can someone tell me how I can upload my avatar, does it have to be a certain size because I tried clicking on the icon next to my name and upload it but it doesn't work.
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look guys on the global warming situation its just like with a TC. Yall argue, "look RI!" or "its dying"; just like "its getting warmer b/c of us" or "its just a phase." The truth is we have no way to know until it happens.

Satillites go back ~30yrs
Data from stations goes back ~100yrs
Ice cores < 800,000yrs
the earth is 4,540,000,000yrs old
We currently can only look back at about .017% of the earth's life

therefore the earth like many otherthings (including weather and what makes the atom have mass) cannot be known at this time. Many climatologists spend their lives trying to figure out how the climate is "EVOLVING" (don't like changing because the climate is always changing), meteorologists try and figure out how weather systems will "EVOLVE", and chemists try and figure out how an atom has mass when everything that makes it up when broken down has no mass. At the moment we cannot know so why argue. well because its fun :)
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Good read Jeff.
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Scientific proof that global warming is happening... facts are messy things.

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755. MahFL
Bah all the tropical waves are crashing into SA or being torn up with shear. Also what happened to Dr Masters forcast of less saharan dust due to increased rains. ( I think global warming dried up the wet soils and transported the dust ).
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there is no doubt the planet is warming. there is doubt to why. but pumping the man made gasses into the atmosphere cant be good. that is no doubt.
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753. MahFL
Remember subtropical forests grew inside the Artic circle one time, so if you think it's hot now you have another thing coming !
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752. MahFL
Quoting Hhunter:
I have great respect for Dr. Masters. But, I am sorry just can't buy global warming. I just don't see the expected relationship between steady co2 increase and temperature increase. In fact we are going into a period of global temperature decrease. The artic ice melt is not as dramatic as it has been. Our history of accurate global temps by sattelite only goes back 30 years. There are lots of fun an games with temperature stations being put in hotter locations in the US the last few years. I am disappointed to not see a more unbiased discussion of "global warming" discussed here by powers that be. I believe it is by Ice that our biggest danger lies. in 30 years we will know.


Global warming is occuring, in the UK plants and animals are living further and further north, sometimes 2 or 3 hundreds of miles. They cannot move north without a temperature increase, and I am not talking one hot summer, it has to be a slow general warmup over decades.
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751. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Japan Meteorological Agency
Tropical Disturbance Summary
TROPICAL DEPRESSION
15:00 PM JST July 27 2010
============================

SUBJECT: Tropical Depression In East China Sea

At 6:00 AM UTC, Tropical Depression (1002 hPa) located at 31.0N 122.7E has 10 minute sustained winds of 30 knots with gusts of 45 knots. The depression is reported as moving north northeast at 10 knots.
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The problem with global warming is that there is less than 100 years worth of data.... incredible... anyone who is a patriot would use the global warming theory to get America off foreign oil consumption. Go feel self righteous at the pump in your SUV if you want but then remember to laugh all the way home at selling America to our enemies.
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Quoting Birthmark:


And to top it off, ten years is insufficient to separate the climatic signal from the noise (of weather). So claiming that ten years is enough to overturn AGW theory (or support it) is doomed to failure.

Even so, 2000-2009 was the warmest decade on record. And 2010 is on pace to be the hottest year on record.


According to the AMSU data...600mb temperatures are at record highs and have been almost this entire month. 2010 is definitely on pace to be in the top 3 warmest years ever recorded.
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Quoting JFLORIDA:
The fact is that CO2 levels have increased by 5% over the past 10 years, while global temperatures have essentially held steady.

Actually thats not a "fact"

Robust warming of the global upper ocean

Most of global warming goes into the ocean. Consequently, the amount of heat accumulating in the world's oceans is a vital cog in our understanding of climate. A number of teams across the world have performed analyses of ocean heat observations. While there's year-to-year differences between the various estimates, they all show essentially the same long-term trend. Now members from the various teams have combined their efforts into a single 'best estimate' of ocean heat (Lyman 2010). What they find is robust warming in the upper ocean over the 16 years from 1993 to 2008.


Figure 1: Ocean Heat Content anomaly from various teams. Ocean heat is calculated from 0 to 700 metres (Lyman 2010).


Why do you guys still have to make stuff up if AGW is such a "lie" and a conspiracy? - why does reality keep getting in the way?


And to top it off, ten years is insufficient to separate the climatic signal from the noise (of weather). So claiming that ten years is enough to overturn AGW theory (or support it) is doomed to failure.

Even so, 2000-2009 was the warmest decade on record. And 2010 is on pace to be the hottest year on record.
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Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


You mean the cold snap that has killed hundreds of people? dude, you know what causes record cold right?


Winter! That was easy. :)
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Quoting Birthmark:
What ended the first Ice Age?

Nothing that's relevant to the current warming...unless you have some information you'd like to share?


Nothing yet - aren't we technically still in an ice age? ;)
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What ended the first Ice Age?

Nothing that's relevant to the current warming...unless you have some information you'd like to share?
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Quoting JLPR2:


XD
Yep it has a nice broad turning.

Well, I'm off to sleep.
Goodnight everyone! :D


Night!

Amazing how dominant the subtropical ridge is in the Atlantic and Caribbean right now...hardly anything but fair weather until you get to the Yucatan and GOM.
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743. JLPR2
Quoting atmosweather:
Ooooh I see what you were saying, I saw CATL and for some reason thought it said C Carib LOL, my bad...alright well that area (around 7N 42W) looks to be a vigorous area of convection associated with the Atlantic ITCZ...no wave analyzed but ASCAT shows some good cyclonic turning.


XD
Yep it has a nice broad turning.

Well, I'm off to sleep.
Goodnight everyone! :D
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Ooooh I see what you were saying, I saw CATL and for some reason thought it said C Carib LOL, my bad...alright well that area (around 7N 42W) looks to be a vigorous area of convection associated with the Atlantic ITCZ...no wave analyzed but ASCAT shows some good cyclonic turning.
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741. xcool
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Quoting Levi32:


Um no? The trend has been all up in the Antarctic since the beginning of satellite measurements. Do we ever hear about that? No. The new rant is ice volume because they can't throw the extent graphs in our faces anymore. Doesn't work....satellite data speaks for itself. Globally, considering the entire globe, (because yes, it's Global Warming right?) sea ice is at normal levels against the 30-year mean.



That is area. Put a glob of peanut butter on a plate. Carefully measure it's area. Now, take about one-half of that peanut butter and spread it on a piece of bread. Measure it's area again. If you've done it right the area has increased even though you've used only half of the peanut butter!

Either we've discovered a magical way to create peanut butter out of nothing, or area isn't the same as volume.

Both the Arctic and Antarctic are losing ice. It's more dramatic in the Arctic.
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739. JLPR2
Quoting atmosweather:


It would if the low level feature was over water...the ITCZ is streaked right over the S American coast and it's gonna be tough for an embedded area of low pressure to get out of there with low level easterlies. But yeah that's really the only significant weather occurring from any kind of surface feature other than the trough over the Yucatan in the entire Basin.


Yep, but it would have all the way to 60w to climb up a little in latitude and to try something.
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Quoting JLPR2:


Even if its the ITCZ, if vorticity strengthens, followed by a Low it can turn into something.


It would if the low level feature was over water...the ITCZ is streaked right over the S American coast and it's gonna be tough for an embedded area of low pressure to get out of there with low level easterlies. But yeah that's really the only significant weather occurring from any kind of surface feature other than the trough over the Yucatan in the entire Basin.
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xcool lol
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736. xcool
lickitysplit lol
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Quoting xcool:
lickitysplit who ?


lickitysplit yo mamma!! waddya mean "who"?
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Quoting nyhurhunter:
WHY DOES DR MASTERS HAVE TO MAKE THIS A POLITICAL BLOG, I THOUGHT THIS WAS FOR TROPICAL WEATHER. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HIM AND A PREACHER. THE CLIMATE IS OBVIOUSLY CHANGING, BUT HOW DO WE KNOW FOR SURE ITS MAN MADE AND NOT A SOLAR CYCLE OR A WHOLE DIFFERENT CYCLE WE DONT EVEN KNOW ABOUT YET. WE DONT EVEN COMPLETELY UNDERSTAND HURRICANES OR TORNADOES YET. DONT THEY KILL MORE THAN CLIMATE CHANGE, SHOULDNT WE FOCUS ON THINGS THAT DESTROY HOMES AND CAUSE MASS DESTRUCTION FIRST THEN MOVE ON TO OTHER THINGS. IT IS ABOUT MONEY, WHEN IS THE LAST TIME YOU HEARD THE WORD "GREEN" IN REFERENCE TO THE ENVIRONMENT. WHEN YOU HEAR THAT SOMEONE IS MAKING MONEY.


If you dont like science and reality you can go elsewhere.
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About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.